Who's allowed to peer through your front-facing camera?

From Amanda Holpuch and April Rubin's "Remote Scan of Student’s Room Before Test Violated His Privacy, Judge Rules" in Friday's New York Times:

A federal judge said on Monday that it was unconstitutional for a university in Ohio to virtually scan the bedroom of a chemistry student before he took a remote test, a decision that could affect how schools use remote-monitoring software popularized during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The right to privacy of the student, Aaron M. Ogletree, outweighed the interests of Cleveland State University, ruled Judge J. Philip Calabrese of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The judge ordered lawyers for Mr. Ogletree and the university to discuss potential remedies for the case.

The use of virtual software to remotely monitor test takers exploded during the first years of the coronavirus pandemic, when millions of students were suddenly required to take classes online to minimize the spread of the disease. Students and privacy experts have raised concerns about these programs, which can detect keystrokes and collect feeds from a computer’s camera and microphone...

“Ensuring academic integrity is essential to our mission and will guide us as we move forward,” Dave Kielmeyer, an associate vice president at Cleveland State University, said in an email. “While this matter remains in active litigation, we are unable to comment further.”

My take: Tough call. The  way the reporters tell the story, Ogletree, the student, was given fair warning before the camera was turned on. He formally objected to the school's surveillance -- because it might reveal, among other private documents, his tax returns. But he let it proceed, took the exam, and then sued the college.

Before I could fly back to the U.S. from Europe earlier this year, I had to take a video covid test. While I sat in front of my MacBook, a monitor somewhere in cyberspace watched to make sure I thoroughly swabbed my nostrils and correctly read the results. Was it invasive? Yes. Did I have an expectation of privacy? No. Did I sue? Not my style.


  1. S Lawton said:
    “Did I sue? Not my style.” Major upvote!

    August 26, 2022
  2. Michael Goldfeder said:
    His assertion that: “Mr. Ogletree replied that there were confidential documents, including 1099 forms, in the bedroom where he was taking his test and that he would not be able to secure them before the exam.” is laughable! Put them in a drawer, under the bed, inside the days old pizza box, or perhaps under the dirty clothes in the corner of the room approaching the size of a small mountain. What a generation.

    August 26, 2022
  3. Gregg Thurman said:
    He’s looking to parlay the issue into a free education. Nothing more.

    August 26, 2022
  4. Steven Philips said:
    Easy alternative. Don’t allow remote testing.
    Sorry, you need to drive to the University, find a parking spot, walk to the testing center at an hour of our choosing and take your test along with 200 others. Note: leave your backpack, iPhone and your IRS papers with the monitor at the door.

    August 26, 2022
    • Upon entry you must show your hands & forearms, both sides. And ya gotta use one of our crappy No 2 pencils to fill in the answer circles on a computer card. If you are caught looking anywhere but at your desk that’s all folks.

      August 27, 2022
  5. John Butt said:
    Follow the money. What does the judge gain from this award?

    August 26, 2022

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